Congregating All Nations at Jehovah’s House
“I rejoiced when they were saying to me: ‘To the house of Jehovah let us go.’”—Ps. 122:1.
1. What prophecy did Isaiah record eight centuries before Christ, and why was it unusual for his day?
EIGHT centuries before Christ, when Jehovah’s congregation was primarily from one natural nation, Isaiah recorded a remarkable prophecy: “And it must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills, and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will instruct us about his ways and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem. And he will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more.”—Isa. 2:2-4.
2. When did the Christian congregation get its start, and what similarity exists between it and Jehovah’s congregation of Israel?
2 Here was Jehovah’s promise to congregate men of all nations to his house in the last days. But this was by no means the beginning of the Christian congregation. Jehovah’s original congregation, Israel, was called out of Egypt in the year 1513 B.C. His Christian congregation began to be called out of antitypical Egypt, the “world,” A.D. 33. The former congregation had Moses as mediator; the latter has Christ. One was founded on the twelve sons of Jacob; the other has twelve apostolic foundations. The congregation in the wilderness had Jehovah’s law covenant with its animal sacrifices; the Christian congregation comes under the glorious new covenant and the perfect human sacrifice of Christ. Those associating with the Christian congregation at the world’s “time of the end” would be able to beat their swords into plowshares, because from its beginning it has followed a new commandment: “Love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35.
3. For what purpose would men of all nations stream to Jehovah’s house, and how is this different from Christendom’s congregations?
3 For what purpose would all the nations stream to the house of Jehovah? To learn his will and obey it. This purpose was highlighted by the apostle Peter when he wrote the congregation: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9) Yes, this must be a congregation of ministers—each a praiser of Jehovah! Not ritual, nor mere pew-sitting, but regular acts of sacred service—this identifies the true Christian congregation.—Rev. 7:15; 22:17.
4. (a) How would the world regard this true Christian congregation, according to Jesus? (b) How is God’s true congregation further identified today?
4 Would the world welcome this congregation with its public proclamation of Jehovah’s excellencies? Jesus tells us why not. “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 15:19) Find a hated congregation and you will be on the right trail. You will not find its members meddling in worldly politics nor offering invocations and benedictions on the world’s affairs. But you will find that the one, true congregation knows and uses God’s personal name, Jehovah. (Ps. 83:18) Of this, Jesus assures us: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world.” (John 17:6) Isaiah reveals that Jehovah would call them his witnesses: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One. Before me there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none. I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior. . . . So you are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I am God.’” (Isa. 43:10-12) There is just one congregation serving as His witnesses in these latter days. In the 175 lands where they declare abroad Jehovah’s excellencies they are known as Jehovah’s witnesses.
5. (a) For what reason is the congregation of God often found in court? (b) Why is it not bigotry to say there is but one right way to worship God and gain eternal life?
5 “Do you mean the hated people who are always in the courts and in the papers about their religion?” Yes; Jesus said it must be this way, did he not? “Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake for the purpose of a witness to them and the nations.” (Matt. 10:17, 18) Find the congregation that has been before the courts and rulers more than all the clergy of Christendom have been and you will find Jehovah’s true witnesses. It is because they have taken the good news of God’s kingdom to the doorstep of the world that judicial hearings have resulted, all for the purpose of a witness before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) “But the witnesses are only a few hundred thousand compared to the millions of churchgoers in Christendom. Is it not bigotry to say you alone have the truth and the way to life?” Was Jesus a bigot? He warned: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matt. 7:13, 14.
6. Why cannot people of good will “join” the true congregation?
6 “How do you join this ‘few’?” You do not join. It is God who chooses the members of his congregation. Paul, one of its apostolic foundations, explains why: “The congregation of the firstborn . . . have been enrolled in the heavens.” “Jehovah knows those who belong to him.” (Heb. 12:23; 2 Tim. 2:19) You cannot “join” Jehovah’s witnesses. If you make a careful study of Jehovah’s Word, dedicate your life to him and serve his kingdom, you are automatically a welcome associate of his earthly organization. Jehovah’s witnesses are interested solely in whether you want to ‘go up to Jehovah’s house’ to be instructed from his law and “walk in his paths.” They welcome you to become a reflector of the light shining from that ‘city on the mountain which cannot be hid.’ (Matt. 5:14) For this reason your search for everlasting life with Jehovah’s congregation will be most happy and fruitful.
7. (a) What is the meaning of the word “church,” and how is it often applied? (b) Exactly how large is Jesus’ “little flock,” and what are some of the Scriptural names that describe it?
7 “Does this mean you view your Kingdom Halls as the true church?” No, the Kingdom Hall is not the “church.” Jehovah’s temple today is heavenly, spiritual. The English word “church” or “congregation” comes from the Greek word ek·kle·siʹa, meaning “assembly.” Ek·kle·siʹa or “congregation” is applied collectively to all Christians known as the anointed spirit-begotten class who are on earth at any particular time. Often it is applied to the local assembly in any place. Jesus called the members of his congregation a “little flock.” (Luke 12:32) Christ is the congregation’s Head. The members of his “body” number just 144,000. (Rev. 7:4; 14:1) “But isn’t that number symbolic?” No, for if you try to enlarge it in any way, for instance, increasing the 144,000 to 144,000,000, you would no longer have a “little” flock. God’s Word further identifies this little flock by various names, such as “anointed” ones (2 Cor. 1:21); “body” of Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23); “congregation of God” (Gal. 1:13); “heirs . . . of God” (Rom. 8:17); “holy nation” (1 Pet. 2:9); “holy ones” (1 Cor. 1:2); “holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5); “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16); “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17); “royal palace of David” (Acts 15:16); “sons of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:38); “sealed . . . sons of Israel” (Rev. 7:4); and “temple of the holy spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). Each year at the Memorial celebration of the anniversary of Christ’s death it is noted that the remaining ones of this “little flock” number only several thousands—just a remnant. Yet this remnant continue to spearhead the witness work, being first to sing the new song about Jehovah’s established kingdom under Christ.—Rev. 14:3.
8. (a) How are the great numbers of Jehovah’s witnesses seen at their conventions related to the “little flock”? (b) Do Jehovah’s congregation and the great crowd worship the “trinity”?
8 “But who were all those witnesses of Jehovah at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds the year you assembled a quarter of a million people in New York city? That was no little flock!” That’s correct, they were a great crowd, part of those Jesus called his “other sheep.” (John 10:16) They hope to live here on earth in God’s new world, under the righteous rule of Christ Jesus and his heavenly congregation. (Rev. 21:1-5) Their salvation does not depend upon being a member of the heavenly congregation any more than an Englishman must sit in the House of Parliament in London in order to enjoy the rights and duties of a British subject. That there would be a great crowd associated with the true congregation we have further proof, in the words of John, another apostolic foundation: “I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, . . . crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Rev. 7:9, 10) No mention is made of attributing salvation to any mysterious third person of a supposed “trinity,” for the Christian congregation does not hold to Christendom’s mistaken belief in this regard. (John 14:28; 1 Cor. 11:3; 15:28) The congregation does rely on God’s holy spirit or active force to perform its ministry, of course, but salvation comes from Jehovah God through Christ.
PRIVATE STUDY NOT ENOUGH
9. Is it enough for one to stay at home and read the Bible? Why do you answer thus?
9 “If I have my Bible and read it, is that not enough? Why must I congregate?” Because it is Jehovah’s will for you. If you really study your Bible closely you will soon learn this. You must be congregated to be part of God’s “household.” Christians are commanded to “consider one another to incite to love and right works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24, 25) If it is your custom to absent yourself from meetings of the congregation, how can you encourage and incite others to love Jehovah and fulfill his will? How can others encourage and incite you? Jehovah did not inspire the Scriptures in order to isolate believers. Paul said he wrote to Timothy in order “that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in God’s household, which is the congregation of the living God, a pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15) You serve as part of the pillar supporting God’s Word of truth in your community when you are congregated, working closely with the congregation. Moreover, a wise person must do more than read God’s law. Jehovah says he must also listen: “A wise person will listen and take in more instruction.” (Prov. 1:5) In order to listen he must be assembled where Jehovah’s servants are speaking. To keep away from Jehovah and the doing of his will is to show an adulterous spirit. “Look! the very ones keeping away from you will perish. You will certainly silence every one adulterously leaving you. But as for me, the drawing near to God is good for me. In the Sovereign Lord Jehovah I have placed my refuge, to declare all your works.” (Ps. 73:27, 28) No adulterer will inherit God’s kingdom.—Eph. 5:5.
10. What fine appreciation have Jehovah’s witnesses in territory where banned shown for the Christian congregation, and that should be the attitude of every Christian in this regard?
10 Take as an example of wisdom the witnesses of Jehovah in some countries where they are presently outlawed. Dozens of families in the rural sections have abandoned their homes and moved to larger cities, because, where they lived, it became nearly impossible to meet together and even more difficult to witness for God’s kingdom. What practical wisdom! Evidently their viewpoint is that of the psalmist: “I rejoiced when they were saying to me: ‘To the house of Jehovah let us go.’” (Ps. 122:1) If, as a Christian, you are determined to walk with Jesus, you must go where he is. The Revelation shows he is walking in the midst of his congregation. (Rev. 2:1) Wherever two or three are congregated in his name, he is among them. (Matt. 18:20) Never can you walk alone. Staying away from the congregation may lead you to the broad, spacious road to destruction, and there you would not be alone either.—Matt. 7:13.
11. During the week what excellent spiritual food is provided at the local Kingdom Hall and in neighborhood homes?
11 You will find the spiritual food in Jehovah’s household is excellent. There is none finer anywhere, nor as good. (Amos 8:11) One night a week the congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses holds a service meeting along the lines of the one Jesus held with early members of the congregation. Read about it at Luke 10:1-12. Specific instructions are given on how to effectively preach and teach Jehovah’s law to men of good will. First-century Christians also gave close attention to “public reading, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:13) You will rejoice to find this same studious attention to Bible reading and study at each of the five weekly meetings of the Christian congregation today. The theocratic ministry school is a good example. Men and women, young and old, give practice sermons, followed by personal counsel. Isaiah’s words have come true: They will all be “taught by Jehovah.” (Isa. 54:13) Early in the week, usually on a Tuesday night, the congregation copies the early Christian example and meets in a private home in your community; in fact, in several homes. (Rom. 16:5) Find out where the nearest group meets in your neighborhood. Become a regular participant. Jehovah will pour you out such a blessing in wisdom and understanding that you will not be able to contain it. The desire to communicate what you learn to others will well up in you. Go along with the members of that service center and learn how they say “Come” to others. Do this and you will take the first steps toward becoming a true Christian. (Rom. 10:10) Your godly devotion will prove to have power.—2 Tim. 3:5.
12. (a) What public meeting is held each Sunday preceding the Watchtower study, and what is recommended for during this hour? (b) How has Jehovah God used the Watchtower magazine, and what is the purpose in studying it congregationally each week?
12 On Sundays each congregation holds a sixty-minute public Bible lecture that provides a wealth of practical wisdom from Jehovah. You will find it a wonderful contrast to Christendom’s sermons on psychology, philosophy, book reviews and politics. Take your Bible each Sunday and learn to look up the scriptures each speaker cites in support of his teaching. This is the correct Christian procedure. (Acts 17:11) Jehovah’s people have songbooks; they like to sing songs to Jehovah’s praise. Following the public talk and such a Kingdom song, the congregation takes up a congregational study of a Bible topic discussed in the magazine The Watchtower. For over eighty years the governing body of the Christian congregation has used this journal as a convenient means of getting Jehovah’s law and the increased light upon it to the household of faith. Jesus foretold that he would have a faithful remnant of his congregation on earth in the last days giving spiritual food to the congregated workers in Jehovah’s house. “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so.” (Matt. 24:45, 46) A “domestic” is a household worker. The Christian workers in Jehovah’s house are strengthened by weekly discussion of the Bible truths printed in The Watchtower. It was similar spiritual food from the early governing body in Jerusalem that made possible this report: “The congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.” (Acts 16:4, 5) The 1960 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses happily reports that Jehovah added 86,345 new witnesses to his congregation in 1959. The Watchtower study each Sunday is an outstanding means of making all these ministers “firm in the faith.”
13. What marvelous restoration has taken place in our day, and what are the visible evidences of it?
13 “It sounds like first-century Christianity has come back to us!” Yes, it certainly has. In fact, this promised “restoration of all things” was foretold at Acts 3:20, 21. It includes a return of godly “judges” and faithful “counselors” to the congregation. (Isa. 1:26) Isaiah foretold that mature Christian overseers and ministerial assistants would protect God’s flock and serve as a hiding place and as streams of water in a parched land. (Isa. 32:1, 2) Jehovah’s congregation has all these faithful overseers in the form of zone, district, circuit and congregation servants, ably assisted by capable helpers and Bible study conductors. (Rom. 15:19; Ex. 18:21) Their qualifications for office include love for strangers. Your first visit to the Kingdom Hall or Tuesday neighborhood discussion in a Witness’ home will let you experience this warm Christian love.
14. (a) What cause for rejoicing is there about the moral and doctrinal purity of Jehovah’s congregation? (b) How does the congregation help us obey Paul’s instruction at Hebrews 13:15?
14 This love is a sign of strength, not weakness, as the world might view it. For in deep love for Jehovah and Christ the overseers can tolerate no doctrinal or moral impurity in the congregation. (Jude 3, 4; 1 Tim. 5:19-22) Any discovered is quickly rooted out, to preserve Jehovah’s favor on the congregation. You will rejoice to find such a clean Christian organization in this time of the end. Assembling with it will soon qualify you to carry out the apostle Paul’s instruction: “Let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Heb. 13:15) The congregation will assign a mature Christian to give you personal assistance as you learn the art of making effective visits on your neighbors and eventually conduct a home Bible study with them. You will get all the help you need so you can be made firm in the faith and, in time, bear your own load of responsibility, even helping someone else. The congregation provides mapped territory assignments for orderly coverage of the community. This is another benefit from the Christian congregation that should be appreciated.
ABILITY TO SPEAK
15. (a) Those who fear they could never speak for Jehovah have what assurances from Isaiah? (b) Will the Christian congregation disintegrate under Satan’s expected pre-Armageddon attack? (c) What counsel may the congregation have in mind when Jehovah counterattacks?
15 Perhaps you feel you could never speak as well as the Witness that first contacted you. Have no fear that you will be inadequate after proper training. You have Isaiah’s assurance: “‘Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success, and any tongue at all that will rise up against you in the judgment you will condemn. This is the hereditary possession of the servants of Jehovah, and their righteousness is from me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” (Isa. 54:17) Assembling with Jehovah’s people will soon enable you to say with confidence, “The Lord Jehovah himself has given me the tongue of the taught ones, that I may know how to answer the weary one with a word.” (Isa. 50:4) Jehovah will strengthen you to stand “firm in one spirit, with one soul fighting side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by your opponents. This very thing is a proof of destruction for them, but of salvation for you; and this indication is from God.” (Phil. 1:27, 28) Learn to persevere with Jehovah’s congregation and do “not give up in doing what is right, for in due season we shall reap by not giving out.” (Gal. 6:7-10) When Satan launches his expected attack on the Christian congregation just prior to Jehovah’s war of Armageddon, Isaiah assures us that the congregation will not be taken over and destroyed: “No more will there come again into you the uncircumcised and unclean one.” (Isa. 52:1) In defense of his congregation Jehovah God will unleash a decisive counterattack that will utterly destroy the congregation of evildoers. (Ps. 26:4, 5) The Christian congregation may well call to mind Jehovah’s instruction: “Go, my people, enter into your interior rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for but a moment until the denunciation passes over. For, look! Jehovah is coming forth from his place to call to account the error of the inhabitant of the land against him.”—Isa. 26:20, 21.
16. (a) What bright prospect faces those congregating at Jehovah’s house today? (b) What should each one now do to gain that objective?
16 Armageddon over, Jehovah’s people will emerge into his clean, righteous new world, there to take up the peaceful work of landscaping the earth and welcoming back those worthy of a resurrection, including Jehovah’s witness Isaiah. Picture yourself in that new world where everything that breathes will praise Jehovah. (Psalms 148; 150) Throughout eternity mankind will worship at Jehovah’s house. This marvelous prospect lies ahead of those men of all nations congregating at Jehovah’s house today. May you carefully analyze your personal relationship to Jehovah’s congregation now. Quickly take whatever steps are necessary to come into full harmony with its pure doctrine and faithful practice. Be present at all its meetings. Share in its public witnessing. Stay with the congregation and preserve your life, even as Jehovah’s first congregation was protected in Egypt centuries ago on Passover night.
17. (a) What appreciation as expressed by the psalmist should we also demonstrate? (b) With that prayerful attitude, to what invitation should men of all nations now quickly respond?
17 May your appreciation for Jehovah’s congregation now be like that of the psalmist: “One thing I have asked from Jehovah . . . that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Jehovah and to look with appreciation upon his temple.” If that is your prayer, then “come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will instruct us about his ways and we will walk in his paths.”—Ps. 27:4; Isa. 2:3.